Indiana Basketball: Are the Hoosiers Finally Ready to Be Road Warriors?

Doug BrodessCorrespondent IFebruary 13, 2013

Indiana Basketball: Are the Hoosiers Finally Ready to Be Road Warriors?

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    Indiana's 29-point victory over Nebraska on Wednesday night (76-47) could be described in a lot of ways...Methodical. Disciplined. Orderly.

    Tom Crean must have enjoyed a night in Big Ten play where he could get his bench quite a bit of playing time.

    In the three weeks left in the regular season, IU will travel to Michigan State (Feb. 19) and Minnesota (Feb. 26) before closing out its conference slate at Michigan on March 10th.

    The road has not been a friendly place for Indiana in recent years. In Crean's first three seasons, the Hoosiers won one road game. That's right...one!

    Last year, as they were becoming relevant again, IU went 5-6 on the road. Still not the kind of record that will win championships.

    So far this year, the Hoosiers are 5-1 on the road, including a breakthrough victory this past weekend at Ohio State.

    Are the Hoosiers finally ready to get things done away from Assembly Hall and win the 2013 Big Ten Championship?

    Here are five keys that will help them become road warriors as they close out the regular season and head to the NCAA tournament:

5. Get Opponents in a Scoring Contest

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    One of the best ways for IU to take charge of its upcoming road games is by playing uptempo and getting its opponents in a scoring contest.

    The Hoosiers are currently the No. 2 scoring team in the country (83.2 PPG), and they are at their best when they get out, fill the lanes and score buckets on the break.

    They don't have to turn games into track meets, but they do need to take advantage of their ability to score points in bunches.

    Crean's crew will silence the crowds on the road if it builds leads by putting lots of points on the scoreboard.

4. Knock Down Threes

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    Whether it helps the Hoosiers close a deficit or build a lead, hitting shots from beyond the arc is one of the ways they can and do take control of games.

    As a team, IU is hitting 42.5 percent of its three-pointers (No. 2 in the nation).

    The Hoosiers perimeter trio (Jordan Hulls, Victor Oladipo and Christian Watford) all can go off at any time from downtown.

    They don't need to get crazy putting up a lot more threes, but the Hoosiers need to continue to use this strong point of their game to keep the floor spread and their opponents honest.

3. Get to the Line and Make Them Pay

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    As a team, Indiana makes more free throws than any other team in D-1 hoops.

    So far this season, the Hoosiers have hit 506 freebies in 25 games.

    They are hitting 75 percent from the line. All of IU's starters shoot at least 74 percent on the FTs. 

    In the closing minutes of some of the upcoming road games, the outcomes will be determined on whether or not the Hoosiers can keep hitting their free throws.

2. Play Efficiently

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    Making the most of every time they have the ball is a key for the Hoosiers stealing wins on their opponents' home courts.

    Tom Crean has Indiana playing at a very high level of efficiency. It is the No. 1 team in the nation in points per possession (1.2 PPP).

    The Hoosiers don't score every time they have the ball, but through good shot selection and drawing fouls, the Hoosiers are getting it done. 

1. Control the Boards

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    As important as anything else on this list, the Hoosiers need to control the boards if they are going to become road warriors this year.

    Currently, the Hoosiers are tied for third in the nation in rebound margin.

    They normally out-rebound their opponents by 9.4 RPG.

    Limiting second shots on the defensive end and getting putbacks on offense are little things that make a huge difference in any game, but especially on the road.